The Monuments Men

March 19, 2014 at 8:39 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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The Monuments Men is an ensemble movie starring:

  • George Clooney,
  • Matt Damon,
  • Bill Murray,
  • Cate Blanchett,
  • John Goodman,
  • Bob Balaban,
  • Hugh Bonneville,
  • Jean Dujardin.

With so many stars, it is hard getting everyone enough screen time. So Clooney (Frank Stokes), Damon (James Granger) and Blanchett (Claire Simone) get slightly more time than the others.

The film has the daunting task of telling a story that spans most of Western Europe, and takes place in the last three years of World war II. At times, the film feels like a series of miniatures.

Frank is in charge of small unit charged with recovering art looted by the Nazis. They also try to stop the Nazis stealing more art, as they retreat; and at the end, try to recover stolen art before it the Russians get to it. Claire is a french woman who collaborates with the Nazis in Paris to keep track of where french is sent.

From 1943 onwards, as the tide of war turns, the Germans retreat eastwards, but they take the art works – tens of thousands of them – with them. Even when most of Germany is overrun, there is no sign of the artwork. Eventually, they are found in salt, potassium and copper mines.

The members of the unit are not young men – all the young men were already in combat units. They are not particularly good soldiers: brave, unfit, with 4 weeks of basic training. Two of them are killed, perhaps in circumstances where other younger more experienced men would not. Bonneville’s character – Donald Jeffries – dies in a shootout trying to prevent the Nazis taking a statue by Michelangelo. Dujardin’s character – Jean Claude Clermont – gets caught in the cross-fire between a German patrol and an American patrol; he is lost and blinders in. Their deaths seem so needless.

A film about WWII looted artwork cannot avoid the holocaust. Much of the art was taken from Jews. There is a terrible scene down a mine, amongst looted artwork, there is are two barrels – one full gold rings, and the other full of gold fillings.

A nice history lesson.

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